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Showcause slap on taxis before permit hit

- PVD targets dozen for skipping hearings on passenger refusal and fudged meters

Nearly a dozen taxi operators accused of passenger refusal or fare fraud have been served “showcause” notices by the public vehicles department for skipping successive hearings, an act of defiance that could invite cancellation of their permits.

“These vehicles have been blacklisted. We will wait for the replies and take further action accordingly,” said C. Murugan, director of the PVD. “If they think they can get away with not attending hearings, these letters are meant to drive home the message that they can’t.”

PVD insiders said the promised action could be to the extent of cancelling the taxi permits, which would be harder on the owners than paying only a fine.

Metro had highlighted on April 17 the first instance of the PVD slapping a fine of Rs 3,000 each on three taxi drivers for refusing passengers. The fine was a deviation from the practice of police imposing a token fine of not more than Rs 100 for the same offence.

According to the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Rules, permits are to be issued on condition that drivers wouldn’t refuse passengers. Section 120 of the rules states that no taxi can refuse passengers, charge more than the metered fare or ply as a shuttle car. Drivers are also required to ferry passengers through the shortest possible route.

Once the permit is cancelled, a taxi cannot ply on the road. The vehicle owner would need to submit a fresh application seeking a permit from the board of transport officials. If the application is cleared, the owner would be asked to pay dues pending against the “blacklisted” vehicle, apart from the permit fee of around Rs 3,500.

“When a penalty remains unpaid, it increases,” an official said. “A Rs 3,000 fine could become Rs 5,000.”

Metro had conducted a road test for yellow cabs on December 19, 2013, coinciding with the inaugural run of the no-refusal taxis. Ten out of 11 yellow taxis failed the no-refusal test that day, though that didn’t surprise as much as the result of a repeat test on the no-refusal fleet on February 24. Six of the 12 no-refusal taxis surveyed either refused or demanded more than the metered fare to various destinations.

The PVD has been flooded with complaints since it started accepting them through email, Facebook and over phone. Prayag Chowdhury of Dr Suresh Sarkar Road has complained that taxi number WB 04E 9451 refused him on Park Street around 8.25pm on March 3. Some 15 minutes later, taxi number WB 04E 6514 refused Arun Malik on Harish Mukherjee Road. Around 9.20pm, Darshan Singh of Ahiripukur Road was refused by taxi number WB 04E 9005 at Taratala.

“Two of these drivers turned up for the last hearing and admitted to refusing passengers. They paid a fine of Rs 3,000 each,” a PVD official. “These are baby steps that will make a difference over a period of time.”